Tropical North Queensland
Home to the majestic Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, Tropical North Queensland is an Australian gem.
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Where rainforest meets the reef
Let the beauty of Tropical North Queensland capture you on an escape that combines unique nature, anicent culture and unforgettable outdoor adventures. Here, you can explore the incredible UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder that should be experienced by everyone at least once. The reef offers a colourful underwater paradise for snorkelling, diving and exploring unique marine life. Alternatively, find yourself on a hike through the breathtaking Daintree Rainforest, an unspoiled paradise home to some of the world's oldest plant species, go on a foodie adventure in the Atherton Tablelands, soak up the tropical vibes of Palm Cove, relax on Four Mile Beach or go island hopping.
Cairns: Your Adventure Starts Here
Is there a better placed holiday destination than Cairns? Strung like a hammock between the glinting world-heritage wonder of the Great Barrier Reef and verdant wet tropics rainforest, the capital of Tropical North Queensland buzzes with unforgettable experiences.
Cairns lets you raft a rainforest river or kite surf on the northern beaches in the morning then dive on a coral cay in the afternoon. Home port for dozens of reef tour vessels, a base for jaw-dropping ascents to the jungle-clad mountains, and springboard to languid Mission Beach to the south, and Cape Tribulation and Daintree to the north, Cairns is the hub of TNQ adventure.
The town is abuzz with stylish restaurants and bars, colourful markets, boutiques to rival the southern capitals and galleries boasting stunning local indigenous art. Relish the compact accessibility of downtown Cairns: join locals at Esplanade Lagoon for a swim and an ice cream, wander to Rusty’s Market for some relaxed retail therapy, or ease into a plate of prawns and a cold beer at Gilligan’s, all within the central business district.
Plunge into perfection on the GBR
Whether you’re an experienced scuba diver, an enthusiastic learner or just happy snorkelling off a deserted island beach in an effort to find Nemo, the magnificent Great Barrier Reef has an experience to suit you.
Cairns, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation and Mission Beach are the departure points for aquatic adventure: from advanced dives from liveaboard charters to Coral Sea sites, to day trips to outer reefs or snorkelling from pontoons just a quick catamaran trip from the mainland. As well as thousands of brightly coloured reef fish, look out for the headline attractions: whales, dolphins, reef sharks, rays, moray eels, giant clams and massive grouper and cod.
Not a swimmer? Not a problem. Stay comfortably dry while getting close to all the action the reef visit has to offer on a semi-submersible craft, glass-bottomed boat, yacht or kayak.
As well as vibrant coral reefs and cays, gorgeous rainforest-clad islands dot the sea off the TNQ coast. Luxury destination Lizard Island at the north end of the reef is a magnet for serious divers. Green, Fitzroy, Dunk and Frankland islands are popular and easy to reach from Cairns and Mission Beach.
Above and beyond: from rainforest to outback
The wet tropics rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience two areas of incredible ecological significance in the same trip. From Cairns, you can skim in a cable car above the steeply jungled gorges and rock pools to Kuranda and beyond. In the ranges behind Mission Beach and the Cassowary Coast, rafters ride the wild Tully River and waterfall pools bubble like Jacuzzis.
From upmarket Port Douglas, go north over crocodile-infested waterways to Cape Tribulation, where the 180-million-year-old emerald rainforest tumbles to the beach. Then head to the Daintree and its dense diversity of unique plants and animals. Stay in accommodation ranging from budget to luxury eco-lodges, standup paddle board on the Mossman River and cool off in idyllic waterholes.
Behind the rainforest peaks lay the abundant Atherton Tablelands, a food-lover’s paradise in an ancient and wildlife-rich landscape, where hot-air ballooning, volcanic lakes, award-winning local produce and platypus spotting are just a few of the thrills. From here, you can follow the sun west along the trans-national Savannah Way, into outback gulf country dotted with historic towns, authentic local characters, wetlands and cattle stations.
Gain Indigenous cultural insights
TNQ offers an unforgettable opportunity to discover the rich cultures of the area’s first peoples. The award-winning Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk at Mossman Gorge delves into 50,000 years of the area’s Kuku Yalanji people. Try your hand at mud crab hunting on beautiful Cooya Beach, then cook your catch for lunch.
The Tjapukai Cultural Centre, next to the Cairns Skyrail station, brings culture to life through traditional dance, art and interactive demonstrations, while indigenous-run not-for-profit Cairns Indigenous Art Centre on Jensen Place supports and sells an excellent selection of high-quality works by local artists. In Kuranda, Rainforestation Nature Park offers insights into the Pamagirri people’s culture with a rainforest dance and Dreamtime walk.
TNQ adventure and eco-activities
Swimming beside a curious eight-metre dwarf minke whale north Port Douglas. Skydiving over Mission Beach. Hurtling down a rainforest track on a mountain bike near Palm Cove. Between reef and rainforest, there’s no shortage of amazing activities to throw yourself into. Things to add to your hitlist: white-water rafting on the Tully and Barron rivers, jet boating in Cairns, and that old favourite, bungy jumping.
These aren’t the only activities that’ll do your heart good. TNQ is on the frontline of global sustainability efforts. Eye on the Reef is a government monitoring program that encourages visitors to log wildlife sightings, coral health reports and incidents through a free smartphone app. Many reef tour operators participate, including the Sunlover Reef Cruises, which runs a snorkel tour collecting data from Moore Reef off Cairns.
Lifestyles of the relaxed and fabulous
It’s only natural that, when all the sun, sea and sweaty jungle action eases up, the far north’s relaxed tropical vibe takes over and leaves visitors unable to resist more indulgent pastimes. Spa junkies flock to elegant Palm Cove to bliss it up at luxury day spas like Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore and Pullman’s Vie Spa; when the pampering is done there’s time to pass at effortlessly cool eateries under the swaying beachfront palms.
Port Douglas has a reputation as a destination for the rich and famous and while there’s no shortage of super yachts and pricey boutiques, the vibe remains casual at popular spots like Beach Shack bar and diner and Hemingway’s Brewery. If you feel the urge to splash out, try Harrison’s Port Douglas, where Brit chef Spencer Patrick, puts the skills he learned under Marco Pierre White to use with French technique and local produce including yabbies, eel and taro.
TNQ teems with unforgettable experiences and adventures of every variety. The hardest decision you’ll have to make is where to start.